There’s a growing perception amongst Cowboys fans that Jaylon Smith is a bad linebacker. That couldn’t be further from the truth. In 2019 and 2020, was he as good as he was back in 2018? Not at all, but he’s not the terrible player people think he is.
Sure he celebrates at weird times, and he has some limitations, but he’s a player that the Dallas Cowboys continue to value. Why else would they allow his contract to become fully guaranteed after the 2021 NFL league year began?
Because the front office, Will McClay included, values his presence in a linebacker corps that was incredibly thin in 2020. With a 17th game added to the schedule having a group of linebackers that you can deploy in different situations will be incredibly important.
Jaylon Smith’s physical limitations have stood out more over the last couple of seasons. Those limitations appear to make it difficult for him to change direction. This is why the teams that have had the most success against the Cowboys’ defense over the past few years (even dating back to 2018) have employed heavy play-action and misdirection schemes. But despite those limitations, the Cowboys aren’t looking to move on from Jaylon Smith, even if a trade opportunity arose this Summer, as Bleacher Report’s Chris Roling suggested yesterday.
Here’s what he had to say:
With (Micah) Parsons and (Jabrili) Cox now in the fray alongside 2018 No. 19 overall pick Leighton Vander Esch, Smith may be expendable. If the Cowboys can find a willing trade partner for him, they might prefer giving more snaps to their younger linebackers.
Chris Roling, Bleacher Report
The Dallas Cowboys expended considerable capital in both the draft and free agency to bolster their linebacker unit. Even with Parsons, Cox, and safety Keanu Neal making the transition to linebacker, there’s still a role for Jaylon Smith on this team.
Parsons is going to be used as a Swiss Army Knife in Dan Quinn’s defense. His versatility will allow Quinn to rush him off the edge or be used as a blitzer. His speed makes him a player the team could use to spy opposing quarterbacks when they face a player like Jalen Hurts of the Philadelphia Eagles.
Jabril Cox will be a good player, but he’s not ready to take on a full linebacker snap count. Rarely are fourth-round picks able to step in and play right away and find success.
Dak Prescott entered the chat.
Jaylon Smith may not be the player he was in his breakout season in 2018. And while I’ve even been hard on him at times, it’s clear the Cowboys’ defensive line has struggled on the interior in recent seasons. Much like it is for running backs if the guys in front of you aren’t playing well, it makes that person’s job much more difficult.
With heavy investments along the Cowboys’ defensive interior, there’s a chance Smith returns to the form we saw a few years ago when he earned his first Pro Bowl berth (2019).
Jaylon Smith isn’t going anywhere. There is no cap savings by cutting him, and even if the Dallas Cowboys were to save money by trading him, what benefit would that be to them now. They’ve got around $6 million in cap space at the moment and will have more by the end of training camp.
For better or worse, but hopefully better, Jaylon Smith is with the Dallas Cowboys for 2021, and it wouldn’t surprise me if he’s here for the tenure of his contract that runs through 2022. The Cowboys’ front office loves Jaylon. With expected team defensive improvement and a salary cap expected to rise, the Cowboys won’t feel the urgency to move on from him anytime soon.